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Arrogance at Allen's on the Danforth

j
John Dec 20, 2005 05:16 PM

Wanted to take 7 friends there for dinner on a Monday night earlier this month and asked for a 7:00 pm reservation. I was informed that seatings were at 6:30 and 8:30. I said 6:30 would be fine, and was then curtly told that I had to understand the table would need to be vacated by 8:30 pm. I said I had no intention whatsoever of hurrying my guests. "This is our policy in December and it has been for years," said the reservationist. I told her that might well be - however, I would not support its attitude but take my custom elsewhere. Which we did - close by to a tapas joint where they seemed delighted to welcome us for as long as we wanted to stay.

Allen's serves pub food, albeit of a high order. The eight of us would have consumed a few cocktails, 3-4 bottles of good wine, some liqueurs after dinner and three courses of food each. In other words, a pretty fair bill. Their attitude has alienated me, permanently. Do they do such roaring business throughout the year that they can be so high-handed ?
Opinions, anyone ?

  1. v
    Vise Dec 20, 2005 06:13 PM

    As much as I hate to admit it (as I defended them on here a few weeks back), Allen's may have lost my business for good as well. Went for brunch on Sunday (have gone several times in the past 6 months or so without issue) and received absolutely horrible service combined with subpar food and an overall lax attitude by the servers. It was busy admittedly, but considering they have 6+ servers working the room it certainly shouldn't have been anything they couldn't handle. Our party of two were repeatedly ignored by our server and others we tried to flag down as they promptly dealt with their Riverdale (ie. well heeled) regulars. By the time our food arrived (close to an hour after ordering, and well after several tables that had ordered after us received theirs) our food (steak and eggs - $14.95) arrived in the form of a slab of overcooked bland steak, rapidly cooling eggs, and lukewarm/mushy fries. We both finished maybe half of our meal and quickly asked for the bill... and not surprisingly our server didn't even bother to ask if there was anything wrong with the food. Something tells me it would have been useless to bring it up either way...

    Count me out on Allen's for a while... for close to $50 for a bad brunch with terrible service I'd much rather take my business elsewhere (Verveine, Kubo, Barrio, Batifole, Petit Dejeuner, Bonjour Brioche etc).

    2 Replies
    1. re: Vise
      k
      kathleen Dec 20, 2005 06:42 PM

      That sucks...I've always had great service and food at Allen's...

      1. re: kathleen
        b
        bottomless pit Dec 21, 2005 10:10 AM

        I've only been to Allen's twice (and not during the winter season)and we've never been rushed.

    2. l
      lesommelier Dec 22, 2005 11:16 AM

      Sorry that you felt abused by their seating policy, but what many people don't understand is that this is the way restaurants make money. We need to have two seatings in an evening (sometimes three), to ensure that our expenses are paid. Toronto is an expensive city in which to run a restaurant; why else do you think there are so many restaurants that don't make it? (Okay, there are LOTS of reasons for that, but one important factor is the high cost of rents in teh city.) That being said, it's a shame that they couldn't have been a bit more flexible, giving you 2 1/2 hours and booking the next table at 9. It doesn't make sense to me, a restaurant manager, to re-seat the entire restaurant at the same time as it would be quite chaotic. We do this one day only - Valentine's Day - and it is not fun. Sorry to hear about your experience. I've only ever been to Allen's for brunch and have nothing but good things to say.

      1 Reply
      1. re: lesommelier
        The Chowhound Team Dec 22, 2005 11:47 AM

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      2. s
        siobhan Dec 22, 2005 07:05 PM

        Allen's has never been a favourite of mine, in spite of the fact that many of my lazy artsy chums seem hell-bent on making me go there at least 4 times a year. VQA only wine list? GAG. Smug or indifferent service for anyone not sitting at the bar 4 nights a week, and just plain over-priced starches?...No thanks. The Danforth is too windy this time of year and I can think of cozier, cheaper and more service-driven alternatives. The tapas bar mentioned, for one. The old Pibmlett's haunt, for another: if I have to feel a draft, I want to drink a cheap one, too:)

        2 Replies
        1. re: siobhan
          m
          Marjorie Jan 5, 2006 02:40 PM

          VQA only wine list. PERFECT.

          1. re: Marjorie
            ingloriouseater Jan 25, 2010 06:52 AM

            this may change the course of the conversation again, but it is good that businesses support VQA, but it is nice to have a larger variety from around the world-or allan's should only serve canadian whiskies? it isn't a localvore eatery

        2. bolistoli Jan 25, 2010 05:12 AM

          It amazes me how this place manages to not only stay in business but is so popular! I think their food is way over priced and what they charge for a little glass of wine is robbery but it's their attitude that has turned me off them for good. A few years back, went there in the summer with a friend and were refused a seat on the patio, even though I could clearly see empty tables. Another time, my friend and I went and ordered a martini. It was brought to us in these cheap, tacky water glasses. We asked the waitress where was the martini glass because for the true martini experience, you need a proper glass. She told us that they REFUSE to use martini glasses. How stupid is that?
          Arrogance says it all and with so many other establishments to choose from, Allen's is off my list. I have also heard complaints from others who have had bad experiences there.

          7 Replies
          1. re: bolistoli
            p
            pimentdespelette Jan 27, 2010 05:05 AM

            I have to add my voice to the chorus. Allens' food is pretty good (albeit really, really pricey) and the room is nice. I'd love to like it, because, honestly, it's a decent pub with a good beers list in a city that's not exactly lousy with them. But the management's opinion of the restaurant far, far exceeds reality, judging by the way I've been treated there a couple of times. They're rude. Dismissive. Unwelcoming. And they act as though if you don't know everything about the place already you don't deserve to know. To whit: Allen's "famous" hamburger. Their hamburger is good. But it's also not on the menu, I suppose because the menu is so jam-packed with $30 and $40 entrees that they don't have room anymore for the $12 one. So if you're a regular and you know about the burger you'll order it, off menu. It's the best thing there. If you don't know about the burger? Well, enjoy that $40 plate, sucka.

            1. re: pimentdespelette
              pescatarian Jan 27, 2010 05:43 AM

              They do not list it with the price but they do say on their menu, "WE ALSO SERVE WHAT ARE WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE TORONTO'S BEST HAMBURGERS". I don't think they are purposely hiding it. I think they think that this adds a certain level of interest to the burgers because you have to inquire about it, like a special. I'm not saying this isn't a bit unusual, but I don't think that they don't list it because they don't want you to order it.

              1. re: pescatarian
                k
                kwjd Jan 27, 2010 06:30 AM

                I went for the first time this weekend and I loved the burger and the beer list. The bottled beer is surprisingly cheap... Don De Dieu for $5.25?Awesome!

                I also didn't have any service issues.

            2. re: bolistoli
              syoung Jan 27, 2010 09:23 AM

              bolistoli said: "Another time, my friend and I went and ordered a martini. It was brought to us in these cheap, tacky water glasses. We asked the waitress where was the martini glass because for the true martini experience, you need a proper glass. She told us that they REFUSE to use martini glasses."

              My understanding is Allen's is an Irish Pub and, as such, lowered expectations are in order when ordering a Martini. That being said, a Martini in a rocks glass is not a Martini but a cocktail with ice mandatory.

              To stay on topic, it's not unusual to have set time seatings. Top restaurants such as former Susur had this policy. I don't think it's arrogance as much as they value maximizing revenue over customer satisfaction.

              1. re: syoung
                Dimbulb Jan 27, 2010 09:49 AM

                Allen's isn't an Irish pub. It's trying to be like Joe Allen's in NYC. And since when did Susur have time limits?

                The OP is from 2005 btw.

                1. re: Dimbulb
                  aser Jan 27, 2010 07:50 PM

                  Susur had two seatings each night, so yes they did enforce a time limit. This refers to "Susur" the restaurant days.

                  1. re: Dimbulb
                    syoung Jan 28, 2010 11:56 AM

                    Sorry, my mistake, it's an Irish Saloon.

              2. shekamoo Jan 27, 2010 06:45 PM

                Great Burgers vs. Rude Service= Never Go Back

                1. Charles Yu Jan 27, 2010 06:55 PM

                  For unsurpassed service, one should give the new Paramour on Ossington a try. When we dined there a few days ago, servers were ever smiling, professional, attentive and accommodating! ( led by manager Adly, ex-Splendido ). Food was pretty fine as well!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Charles Yu
                    a
                    Atahualpa Jan 28, 2010 07:13 AM

                    I'm not sure how a west end restaurant would be an alternative to a Danforth area pub.

                  2. a
                    Atahualpa Jan 28, 2010 07:20 AM

                    I've dined at a number of high-end places that had a time-limit on an early seating. This has included Maple (M. Smith's old Halifax restaurant), and The Moderne (in NYC MOMA), and at least a few in Toronto that I can't exactly recall.

                    It isn't an unheard of, or necessarily arrogant policy. However, you are more than welcome to take your business elsewhere because of it and that is the risk they run by having such a policy.

                    (PS I realize the OP is from 4 yeards ago and Allen's may or may not have this policy anymore. I do not know, because I do not go to Allen's. I find it too pricey for what it is, but I haven't had any notable service issues with the place either.)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Atahualpa
                      a
                      Apple Jan 28, 2010 12:33 PM

                      Yes, I believe this is still a policy at Allen's.

                      I've been reading this thread and decided to jump in. I am of two minds on this issue... I understand and appreciate the need to turn tables to increase revenue but at least Allen's is up front about this... the hostess does advise you before sitting that they would like the table back after 2 hrs. Sure - it's a bit off putting, but at least you can decide up front if you want to linger or go...

                      I prefer this versus the server who places the bill on the table without offering dessert (which is the experience at other restaurants who want to turn over the tables but don't advise you up front.)

                      Admittedly as a result of this policy, I don't often go to Allen's.

                    2. p
                      Pincus Jan 28, 2010 10:05 AM

                      I've had mediocre (like reheated President's Choice quiche), overpriced (IMHO) food but good service there. Although this means I won't avoid the place, it isn't a strong enough incentive to have me return there or suggest it as a destination spot to others.

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